The little barn that sits behind the Falls Park Visitor Information Center has the same rustic look it would have had back in 1917 when the stockyards opened. When you take a step inside, you’ve entered into a whole new era.
“In 2009, the stockyards closed, and at that time, a man named Jim Woster wanted to preserve the legacy of the yards,” said Jennifer Hoesing, executive director at Stockyards Plaza Inc. “He knew timeliness was important, and now is the time to be telling this story.”
Jim Woster is the Stockyards Ag Experience board president, and spent 40 years of his life working at the stockyards. After retirement, Woster still wanted to educate the people of Sioux Falls about the stockyards history and why agriculture is so important. He founded the Stockyards Ag Experience to remind the community how special the stockyards, customers, and the ag industries are.
After being used for storage for five years, and being known as the “Horse Barn,” the Stockyards Ag Experience opened its doors to the public on March 2. Admission for adults is $5, and for children three and older is $3.
The inside of the barn is very modernized, with interactive activities that are great for kids and, let’s face it, adults, as well. It consists of touchscreens, puzzles, and a grocery store, where visitors can scan and learn about each item. They also offer a 20-question scavenger hunt for kids that allows them to interact with the history around them, and with whomever they are enjoying the day with.
“It’s fun for kids to learn and the things you hear kids saying, ‘milk comes from cows? I thought you got your milk at Hy-Vee?’ I mean, just those little things that we take for granted, we have the opportunity to teach them, because if kids don’t learn it somewhere, they don’t know it,” said Hoesing.
Pictures, videos, and the opportunity to read everything there is to know about the stockyards surround visitors as they walk through the upstairs portion of the barn. Visitors can also find a touchscreen that plays 29 hours of interviews with people who have experienced first-hand what the stockyards had to offer, Hoesing said.
The women who worked in the stockyards called themselves “the Stockettes,” and they ran the administrative rolls, making sure customers were happy and finances were on track, Hoesing said. These women worked in the bank, café, and in the offices, all while cows were bellowing right outside.
“We try to capture all the senses here; you can hear mooing if you are listening carefully, but we leave the scent to your imagination,” laughed Hoesing.
Hoesing said the project of preserving the history of the stockyards isn’t finished quite yet. Jim Woster wanted to add an outdoor experience you can’t get walking throughout the barn. Building the plaza across the street from the barn is the next phase in the stockyard experience. The goal is to have the plaza ready for visitors by 2019.
The four-acre addition of the Plaza will give visitors the real feel of the stockyards they can’t get inside the barn. The Plaza will include old elements of the stockyards, such as old gates, pens, and a catwalk, Hoesing said.
“We want people to know how agriculture is linked to their daily lives,” explained Hoesing. “If you eat food, you probably have a farmer to thank for it, and we want folks to recognize we have these great choices because of agriculture.”
In July and August, the Stockyards Ag Experience will be having an event called Farmer Face-to-Face, which will allow visitors to talk to actual farmers and ask questions about what they do. In September they will be celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the stockyards.
“All who live in Sioux Falls, and all who live in this region, we benefit from the shared destiny of the Sioux Falls Stockyards,” said Hoesing. “We shouldn’t take agriculture, South Dakota’s number-one industry, for granted.”
For more information, visit stockyardsagexperience.org.
STOCKYARDS FUN FACTS:
- The stockyards were 49 acres.
- 8,000-10,000 animals were sold each day.
- People traveled from a 100-mile radius to sell livestock.
- Agriculture is the number-one industry in South Dakota.
- An acre is about the size of a football field.
- South Dakota is the 3rd largest producer of honey.
5:30–7 p.m. // 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Stockyards Ag Experience
309 E. Falls Park Dr